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March 12, 2008 12:19 AM   Subscribe

David Mamet: Why I am no longer a 'Brain Dead Liberal'. "The right is mooing about faith, the left is mooing about change, and many are incensed about the fools on the other side—but, at the end of the day, they are the same folks we meet at the water cooler. Happy election season."
posted by The Card Cheat (109 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, at least now I can ignore him with a clear(er) conscience. There's a special place in Idiotland for people who become Born-Again Libertarian Capitalist US-Constitution-Idolizers now, when the systems they have fallen in love with are failing and the Grand Promises are being turned into Big Lies. But then, Mamet has years of success behind him and probably just needed some justification for joining the Greedy Bastard Club.
posted by wendell at 12:32 AM on March 12, 2008 [11 favorites]


I like how he takes 6 paragraphs to get to the point. Wait, what's the opposite of like?
But I digress.
No kidding!

And okay what do we learn here? That the constitution is good, Kennedy is kind of like Bush, people are not fundamentally good all the time, in the absence of government, people will figure their problems out themselves, and David Mamet is a very turgid, portentous writer.

Also he very weirdly separates the military from the "government"
posted by delmoi at 12:41 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh God. A whole thread. A whole fucking thread. All of talking like Mamet, well fuck yes. Well just fuck, anyway. It was about time, and let me just check my watch, yes, it's late already. Memes die like fruit flies and leave lots of mango leftover to rot. Go run your blender why don't you. You want your motherfucked lassi, and I won't have you lie about that. David Mamet will consume you. With a straw. Sipping. No pressure. Not on his dental work. Now we laugh at the very possibility. You're going to die and be in hell, don't you remember from church? Laugh now. Laugh immediately.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:48 AM on March 12, 2008 [38 favorites]


Wow. This guy makes a living from writing. I'm on the wrong fucking planet.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 12:50 AM on March 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


The only reason I pay any attention to his name at all are the excellent Spartan and The Unit. Otherwise, blah, just another TV/movies person.
posted by mrbill at 12:51 AM on March 12, 2008


blah. I think David Mamet should have put down the pen 2 decades ago. He's actually not clever at all. A contrite bore who manages to take other people's things and make them his with little effort.
posted by wantwit at 12:55 AM on March 12, 2008


When did this style of conversationalist journalism become widespread? I'm not asking rhetorically, I'm actually curious. It seems like an awfully wasteful format in terms of wordcount and the reader's time.
posted by FissionChips at 1:00 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's something a bit more substantive about the Clinton/Obama race.
posted by delmoi at 1:10 AM on March 12, 2008


Is he serious about that no director analogy? I know fuck all about putting on a play, but it sounds a bit ludicrous to suggest that all plays ever would be better without directors.
posted by juv3nal at 1:14 AM on March 12, 2008


I liked it. I didn't agree with it, but it's nice that he put such a focus on rational discussion.
posted by seanyboy at 1:33 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Reality doesn't always meet perceptions, news at 11.

In other news , complexity is still such a pain in the ass.
posted by elpapacito at 1:50 AM on March 12, 2008


Shorter David Mamet: Everybody's stupid. Except, possibly, me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:56 AM on March 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


David Mamet's writing made enjoyable:
Read it as though he is speaking in short, enthusiastic bursts, a la Strong Bad at the Monster Truck Show.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 2:04 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


But I digress.

While you're doing that, I'm gonna go look at some other web page, ok?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:25 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


You ever read Richard Price in interviews? Or Elmore Leonard? Or did you read that article Jonathan Franzen wrote for Harper's before The Corrections came out?

The personal opinions and feelings of my favorite artists (of all media) I hold in the same as seeing ones parents naked. If it happens by accident, it hapens, but you don't go seeking it out.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:27 AM on March 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


So you folks still think in terms of "liberal" and "conservative?" Then you're not paying attention. Snark all you want, but Mamet is paying attention.

And he is right about the Constitution. It's not just for wing nuts. It was Little Jimmy Madison who understood how folks are.
posted by tommyD at 2:57 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had to stop by page 2. One can be a critical thinker without condemning everything, or thinking it's always broken. If I were to take what the extremists of any movement thought as the mainstream opinion, I'd be very tired of all political movements very quickly.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:14 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wait, is this the guy who wrote Oleanna? That was one of the plays I saw in Theater 101 that made me want to gouge both my eyes and ears out, simultaneously.
posted by Avenger at 3:32 AM on March 12, 2008


This article is the mirror image of this comment.

"I was an unthinking zealot for one side. Boy, was I dumb! Now I'm an unthinking zealot for the other side."
posted by nasreddin at 3:36 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Libertarian! Everybody's a #$%@ and you still hang out with them around the water cooler. Welcome to the world of the founding fathers.
posted by ewkpates at 3:41 AM on March 12, 2008


He figured out that liberalism is in essence conflict theory, and conservatism is in essence functionalism. *golf clap*
posted by mullingitover at 3:44 AM on March 12, 2008 [6 favorites]


Is he serious about that no director analogy?

Of course he is, he's a writer. There's nothing a writer hates more than someone who fucks with their lines and takes all the credit.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:49 AM on March 12, 2008


Wait, is this the guy who wrote Oleanna?

To his credit though, he also wrote and directed House of Games.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:53 AM on March 12, 2008


Shorter Mamet: I finally realized that I'm rich enough to be a libertarian.
posted by graymouser at 3:58 AM on March 12, 2008 [6 favorites]


Here's a guy who's had enormous success in an essentially irrelevant field, and has now become full of himself. He needs a deeper understanding of Sturgeon's Law.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:05 AM on March 12, 2008


Of course he has learned a good lesson and govt is no good and the economy is great and the housing market under the president is wonderful and jobs galore and a war that is a total failure etc but the free economy works--for corporations. Ok Dave. Both ends suck. What will you do now: sit back and tell us to sit out the election. and that will change everything.
posted by Postroad at 4:32 AM on March 12, 2008


as someone wrote last night on MetaChat in a thread about this essay, Mamet's own spiritual path, ie his coming back to practising Judaism and reading the Torah, has also made him feel much more emotionally towards Israel -- as his book published last year, an all-out attack on fellow Jews for their perceived (by Mamet) lack of militant commitment toward Israel and their own Jewishness, demonstrates.

it's kind of perplexing that one's very strong disagreement with one's fellow liberals made one change one's political outlook entirely -- remember those "liberal hawks" who after 9/11 became fans of Bush/Cheney because of the "War On terror" only to become, to say the least, uncomfortable when their new buddies tried to deface the Constitution with antigay graffiti, let poor blacks in New Orleans drown like rats, and all that other Bush stuff that makes even some staunch conservatives cringe? Mamet is a bit like those post-9/11 Bush supporters.

re: his playwriting, and the fact that his dialogue is so easy to mock but impossible to copy -- the parodies, as demonstrated above, are almost always shockingly bad -- are an entirely different issue. if you can really copy his dialogue find yourself an agent because they'll pay you as much as they pay Mamet, ie millions.

as much as I think that his best plays are the older ones, and as much as I find the fetishism at the root of The Unit extremely crude and cringeworthy, I think Mamet still has a lot of talent for writing drama. essays on politics, not so much -- he's not a political thinker at all, he's just rationalizing a very sincere emotional pull towards blind support for his peeps (the fact that he, eligible for Israeli citizenship and able-bodied, chose not to back up his tough talk on Israel by actually doing something, should not be held against him, I think)
posted by matteo at 5:04 AM on March 12, 2008 [13 favorites]


Bah. I like Mamet's dramatic writing (even Oleanna). But that hardly counts as an essay. Most of his arguments carry a populist tinge, but he expects us to take on faith that he's "seen the light" and the conservatism is the New Good. If he actually put down some arguments as to what he thinks works and why, then it might be worth discussing.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:47 AM on March 12, 2008


David Mamet full of himself? Well, New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff told a great story (on NPR's Fresh Air, I think) a few years ago about Mamet: shortly after becoming cartoon editor, Mankoff got a smarmy letter from Mamet congratulating him on his new position, concluding "I've taken the liberty of including a few of my cartoons for you to publish in The New Yorker..." Mankoff said the cartoons were horrible, but you know, who would have expected otherwise really; his reply to Mamet included the line, "I've taken the liberty of including a play I wrote, for you to produce." Mamet, predictably, was Not Amused.
posted by aught at 6:29 AM on March 12, 2008 [8 favorites]


As Atrios pointed out a while back, although it's very important to you personally, nobody else gives a fuck how you vote or why. Listening to other people bloviate about their own political psychodrama is like listening to other people describe their 'fascinating' dreams.

Mamet's essay is grandiose, pretentious tosh, but mine would have been too, and so would yours. The key thing is NOT TO FUCKING WRITE IT, even if someone asks. It's basically the same essay as 'how the smell of my own farts has changed over time'. Fascinating the farter, a big turnoff to everyone else.
posted by unSane at 6:29 AM on March 12, 2008 [9 favorites]


Mamet's cartoons were briefly published by Huffington Post and universally derided.

Here's an example.
posted by unSane at 6:31 AM on March 12, 2008


Christ, unSane, those cartoons are awful.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:38 AM on March 12, 2008


if you can really copy his dialogue find yourself an agent because they'll pay you as much as they pay Mamet, ie millions.

Somebody already did. His name is Quentin Tarantino.
posted by jonp72 at 6:48 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've always held the opinion that 80% of the self-identified "conservatives" among boomers are like Mamet: they were shallow liberals when they were younger, and when they suddenly, on day, realized that The Age of Aquarius really wasn't going to be as portrayed in Hair, they think they've had some deep insight and become shallow conservatives.

Title shoulda been "How to Go from Being a Brain Dead Liberal to a Brain Dead Conservative, in Five Easy Steps".
posted by mondo dentro at 6:55 AM on March 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


So was that piece 2 or 5 pages long? The nave on the first page seemed to indicate that it was 5, but if you follow the links...

But as others have said here, it was a waste of time. Stick to dramaturgy, Dave.
posted by vhsiv at 6:58 AM on March 12, 2008


You can bash Mamet all you please, but it won't change the fact that liberals are brain dead.

Well what else do you expect after 7 years of George W. Bush? Ones head can only take so much abuse.
posted by Green With You at 7:03 AM on March 12, 2008


I of course meant "one's". But I'm brain dead so please forgive me.
posted by Green With You at 7:04 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


The article's a little confused--he's absolutely right that Madisonian democracy is based on the idea that all three branches will be working toward their own ends and each will ideally keep the other two from overreaching. But the idea that conservatism is based in a negative view of human nature seems a little weird. Modern conservative thought assumes that the government can be trusted implicitly. Conservatives trust the president to only wiretap the right people, only torture the right people, only throw the right people in prison forever without a trial.

Mamet's right that a lot of liberals are brain-dead, but it doesn't help to switch to being a brain-dead conservative. Conservatism these days is primarily dogmatic. When a political movement refuses to believe in, say, global warming, with overwhelming scientific evidence and consensus staring them in the face, it's hard to take seriously the idea that we should trust them with running a city council, let alone the federal government.
posted by EarBucket at 7:12 AM on March 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Happy election season."

If we don't want to get election fatigue by November, we gotta skip these minor daily election semi-news posts and stick to really major stuff only.

Sinbad is out, and this isn't even semi-news, simply sophistry from someone who "dosent" amount to much politically.
posted by prostyle at 7:16 AM on March 12, 2008


did mamet intentionally misspell "dosent" in that god-awful cartoon unSane linked? if so, i don't really get the point. you'd think a writer would at least know how to spell "doesn't." but ah hell, what do i know. i don't even have an agent.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:21 AM on March 12, 2008


I've heard that Mamet's somewhat dyslexic.

My only Mamet experience was when I was working in a ethnographic art gallery in Harvard Square in the late 80s. Mamet occasionally dropped in to buy weird bits and pieces -- inuit stuff as far as I can remember. He was the kind of person who always put you on the wrong foot. When I phoned him to tell him something had arrived he'd answer by saying "Joe's Pizza", which was confusing and embarrassing the first time and merely irritating after that.

(Although I confess I use it myself sometimes. Ah, me.)
posted by unSane at 7:30 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


I almost posted this essay here last night because I dig Mamet the playwright and director (I'm especially partial to the underappreciated State and Main) but then thought better of it. He's great on drama though -- his treatise The Three Uses of the Knife is excellent.
posted by muckster at 7:32 AM on March 12, 2008


Eerie prefiguring: 'Because only one thing counts in this life: get them to sign on the line which is dotted.'
posted by sixswitch at 7:33 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cranky playwright runs out of gas, becomes crankier old man. Film at 11.
posted by client9 at 7:34 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I liked his story about Norman Mailer and being wrong about Waiting for Godot. Perhaps there was a little hint in there that maybe history can repeat itself, possibly with regard to Mamet. Having read this piece, I have to say that I'm with him: I would like to see every theatre critic in the world take out a full-page ad in the paper for which they work, reading "I was completely wrong about David Mamet, but the scales have fallen from my eyes. Ignore anything I have ever said on the subject and please--please for the love of God--ignore anything David Mamet has to say on the subject. Or any subject. Or just ignore David Mamet."
posted by Hogshead at 7:34 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed it much more than most here, probably because I'm not political and I enjoy Mamet prose. I've read dozens of essays by Mamet. I rarely agree with him about anything, but I love the way he expresses his cockeyed ideas. There are so many phrases I enjoyed in that essay, but what would be the point in listing them here. Most people here are more interested in (ripping apart) Mamet's politics than critiquing his word choices*. Fair enough.

But I will mention that I too am puzzled by Mamet's aside about directors. As a theatre director, I don't completely disagree with him. Directors can do terrible harm by allowing (consciously or not) rehearsals to become cults of themselves. As Mamet says, the goal isn't to curry favor with the director, it's to tell a story. And actors, being human (social beings) will naturally find it easier to glom to a social role than a (more abstract) narrative one. In fact, I see one of my main jobs as a director to be steering the actors away from me (and themselves) and towards the story. Ego is deadly in theatre, but it's pervasive. I fight against it.

I'm more inclined to listen to Mamet when he talks about theatre than politics, but I'm confused as to whether he's talking about bad directors or all directors. He doesn't qualify. He seems to be talking about the entire species. (Of course, this is his gift/curse. He unapologetically makes bold, universal statements. They're too exceptionless to be true -- but they're forceful. Which, to me, is what makes them fun. "Put the coffee cup down!"

If he means ALL directors, then why does he himself direct? He directs his own play and films; he directs other people's plays and films. Maybe he thinks he's the exception that proves the rule, but then why does he let other people direct his plays? For instance, Joe Mantello is directing the very play Mamet discusses in the article ("November). Mamet is powerful; he could eliminate the director if he wanted to.

I can't imagine how rehearsals would work without a director. It doesn't have to be a Director with a capital "D." It could be an "actor manager." It could be a tag-team affair, with different people taking control at different times. But how is a group of five-to-thirty people supposed to come into a room and self-organize themselves into a coherent story-telling machine? Mamet seems to be making the argument that they "just will." But he doesn't put his money where his mouth is.

* he's not just the writer of "Oleanna." He's the writer of that play plus "The Verdict," "The Postman Always Rings Twice," "Glengarry Glen Ross," "American Buffalo," Three incredible Chekhov adaptations, "Life in the Theatre," "Hoffa," "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," "The Edge," and dozens of other plays and films. He's one of American's leading men of letters. You don't have to like him, but it's rather foolish to dismiss him based on one play you didn't like.
posted by grumblebee at 7:39 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Theres a bit of a weird bit in Godzilla Vs Bambi (which I'm a couple of chapters into) where he launches into a rather weird bit how Hollywood is now oing to demonize jews and have jewish villains in everything, based on the evidence that The SUm Of All Fears features a mislaid Israeli nuke. I guess he's got The Passion Of The Christ as a datapoint, but other than that, WTF?
posted by Artw at 7:55 AM on March 12, 2008


Me, starring in: "I was David Mamet's Copy Editor"

1.
I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

2.
We in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances, yes, but we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be. We are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

3.
I found not only that I didn't trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.

4.
I began to question my hatred for "the Corporations". I began to question my distrust of the "Bad, Bad Military" of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world.

5.
Do I speak as a member of the "privileged class"? If you will.

6.
If the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out? I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to.

7.
"Aha," you will say, and you are right.

8.
I am writing a play about politics.

(end)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:01 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Political opinions are for closers, David.

"He's the writer of that play plus "The Verdict," "The Postman Always Rings Twice,""

Is that a different Postman Always Rings Twice? Because the one I know was a noir book and movie long before dear David was born.
posted by klangklangston at 8:05 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mamet's cartoons were briefly published by Huffington Post and universally derided.

I think David Mamet's cartoons are (mostly) hilarious. If you're a B. Kliban fan, do yourself a favor and track down Mamet's 2006 book of cartoons Tested On Orphans.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:06 AM on March 12, 2008


This is a curiously undercooked piece of writing - I suspect too that it is as much about Israel as about anything else - but in a certain mode, Mamet is unquestionably a master essayist. His collection Jafsie and John Henry contains a couple of essays - on scotch-tasting in Edinburgh, and hunting in Vermont - that I count among my favourites by any writer. One thing with Mamet is, his economy of language serves him well when he's expert in his subject matter (and both essays are as much about male fellowship and reverent, respectful hobbyism as anything else). But he gets turgid when talking about politics, trying for a long time now to cultivate an aloofness that undercuts any moral authority he might claim.

His writings about anti-Semitism and Israel have long had a nasty edge to them (as when he calls The Diary of Anne Frank a comedy for Gentiles - a merely formal observation turned into a disgraceful bit of xenophobia). And his writing on technology is frankly Luddite: his hatred of the television is about 30% good sensible rejection of passivity, and 70% fear/disgust toward the sweepstakes of which he is not a part. I share his reverence for live theater but because of his technophobia he's missed the golden age of American drama (fuck The Unit). Ultimately, this Village Voice piece shades into both bad tendencies; 'National Palestine Radio' is a terrible joke, his glorification of rustic man's simple consensus building is a little suspect given that Mamet is almost without exception a city/university product, and his 'one is the same as the other' approach to the candidates sounds a lot like 'I can't be bothered.'

But he's by no means a second-rate thinker; his best work is unbelievably good, his defense of tradition is steeped in reverence and pragmatism both, and his dramatic language - the subject of endless merely inaccurate, dull-witted parodies - is singular and rich. This is not great (or even good) work but Mamet has attained greatness in his time. To hear him denigrated by his intellectual and creative inferiors is saddening.
posted by waxbanks at 8:12 AM on March 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


Wow, his prose is as terrible and artificial as his dialogue.
posted by interrobang at 8:18 AM on March 12, 2008


I'm with matteo. Mamet's a brilliant dramatist (was and is).

He's often an excellent essayist and teacher as well.

But his political opinions are for shit as are his novels.

the excellent Spartan and The Unit

The Unit?! Are you serious? I saw the first season and consider it the worst thing Mamet's ever had his name attached to. (Though I hear he also directed an episode of The Shield...).

Somebody already did. His name is Quentin Tarantino.

This is a ridiculous statement. I've nothing against Tarantino's writing, but it's nothing like Mamet's. Their only commonality is cuss words and if you think either's work is just a lot of swearing, you're missing the point of both of them.
posted by dobbs at 8:20 AM on March 12, 2008


To hear him denigrated by his intellectual and creative inferiors is saddening.

In fairness, that superiority isn't much on display here. What's saddening is that he thought this psychobabble was worthy of publication.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:21 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


To clarify: he did a version of Postman, and of The Winslow Boy; his adaptations are fascinating. And the stylistic excess of De Palma's The Untouchables aside, its crackerjack dialogue is Mamet's.

Part of his disdain for directors stems from his own theatrical method, which militates against directorial interpretation and interposition. As far as he's concerned, the actor's only job is to say the lines and render the written action clearly. His books on the theater are fantastic, like the best strongest whiskey you've ever poured, but I suspect they're more effective as a counterforce to hack directors' theoretical/sentimental excesses than as templates for staging great plays. House of Games is written in diamond but I find it practically unwatchable; easier to get into State and Main or The Spanish Prisoner, but neither is particularly welcoming. The best film of his work is surely Glengarry, which he (mercifully!) didn't direct. Its visual language is straightforward and its direction somewhat stagey, but the performances are out of this world.
posted by waxbanks at 8:21 AM on March 12, 2008


kittens - You're right, but of course few commenters stop at 'This was bad, here is my improvement upon it.'
posted by waxbanks at 8:22 AM on March 12, 2008


Is it time to quote Trainspotting on Sean Connery again?
posted by Artw at 8:29 AM on March 12, 2008


Their only commonality is cuss words and if you think either's work is just a lot of swearing, you're missing the point of both of them.
posted by dobbs at 10:20 AM on March 12


What is the point?
posted by adamdschneider at 8:39 AM on March 12, 2008


I enjoy the Mamet movies I've seen. And he's a good wordsmith—"John Simon, whose stunning amalgam of superciliousness and savagery, over the years, was appreciated by that readership searching for an endorsement of proactive mediocrity." I like it.

But when he says "As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart" I see someone who is studiously self-unaware. Mamet thinks people are generally good at heart? David fucking Mamet? His body of work displays such a plain contempt for human nature that I can only conclude his own life had been completely unexamined. Until he decided he's a conservative.

And now that he's a conservative, he thinks that government is basically corrupt, and that people can be trusted to do what's right. What intellectual journey has just taken place? None. He's just changed jerseys.
posted by adamrice at 8:55 AM on March 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Hey, the Spanish Prisoner is one of my favorite movies.
posted by kbanas at 9:02 AM on March 12, 2008


what from Bklyn said, I really don't hold any illusions about the personal opinions of artists. I believe if there is something to be said in their art, 9 times out of 10 it didn't get there intentionally. Wisdom is within us all, that's why we relate to those who possess the special antenna to bring it out from within the subconscious and show it to the world. Other than that ability they are really no different than anyone else - same bigotry and fears. If I could say one thing to the world it would be to stop looking for enlightenment from men and start looking for it within.
posted by any major dude at 9:08 AM on March 12, 2008


To hear him denigrated by his intellectual and creative inferiors is saddening.

To hear him denigrated by his intellectual and creative equals is heartening, especially when the criticism rings clear and true, given the subject's hubris. And I write that as someone who enjoyed much of his older work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:13 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


WTF? I mean, seriously, WTF?

First, anyone who accedes to a "free-market" system is an idiot. He obviously doesn't know what a real free-market is. Short answer: 10 bosses and 10 million slaves. Strike one.

Second, people are basically good. I'll buy that. But most of us live in a world where, if we don't do our jobs competently, there are consequences. He's saying, "That's OK Mr. President, wiretap away because we know you're just a poor schlub with goodness in your heart. That's OK Mr. CongressCritter, go along with him for the same reason. That's OK, Mr. Corporation, we know the lead paint and asbestos were just mistakes..." Etc., etc., etc. Strike two.

Third, liberals are brain-dead. For so many, many reasons - Strike three.

(And just between you and me: I don't like most of the people at my water-cooler.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:19 AM on March 12, 2008


He's no Václav Havel, either as a playwright or a political thinker.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:23 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


As if we needed more evidence to confirm that Mamet reached the summit of his powers years and years ago, here we have the Bobby Fischer-like turn of the screw wherein Mr. Mamet embraces his new fanatical, binary worldview and sinks off into complete irrelevance.

.
posted by inoculatedcities at 9:34 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


So how is it possible that someone who wrote and directed the excellently terse Spartan could spend so much time belaboring the point over something simple?

I surprised that someone who so clearly likes the sound of his own voice, would allow his characters to be so silent in a film.
posted by quin at 9:40 AM on March 12, 2008


Well, it was a lot better than your average celebrity political twaddle, but I prefer it when Mamet stays away from politics. I'm a huge fan of his work both as filmmaker/playwright and writer on dramatic theory, but he also cowrote the awful Wag the Dog.

The man's not perfect. He'll cast his wife in every single things he does -- I remember watching the Shield and seeing Rebecca Pigeon's name in the credits and thinking, "wow, she found work in a non-Mamet piece?" And then, the credit: Directed by David Mamet.

I can forgive him; he helped bring Ricky Jay into my life. He wrote Glengarry Glen Ross (is that the best cast ever in a movie?). I love The Spanish Prisoner. And I'm excited for Redbelt. Hell, I even like Heist.

And The Three Uses of The Knife is brilliant.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:47 AM on March 12, 2008


Do I speak as a member of the "privileged class"? If you will—but classes in the United States are mobile, not static, which is the Marxist view.

Wow, and he wrote a play that's all about politics?? I can't wait!
posted by stammer at 9:55 AM on March 12, 2008


The personal opinions and feelings of my favorite artists (of all media) I hold in the same as seeing ones parents naked. If it happens by accident, it happens, but you don't go seeking it out.

Sure. This is true.

Think of it like this artists are at their best when the muse flows right out of their brain. It's all about energy turning into matter, honest emotions wrenched from the subconscious, staying messy and complicated, and somehow gaining form and getting accurately communicated unfiltered.

Where as thinking about politics — writing about politics — for most artists is the opposite of all that.

Essentially Mamet got old. Like all of us. For the last forty years he has been allowed to be a petulant child in the indulgent emotional sense. It's what Hollywood encourages in it's great talents. And now he wants to grow up. He thinks that means getting religion and discovering the world is really as complicated as his emotional landscape. So naturally one seeks to order all that. And going superficially "conservative" is natural as you get older and he is indulging in this becuase of being part of an important "history" (911 and all that). But he is not important in that sense. None of are. Every generation discovers they are part of history. Our had the good fortune of allaying history and anesthetizing ourselves to it becuase of our easy economic position.

It's certainly easier to go conservative (too look back, to seek your roots)... becuase your richer. You don't NEED to be angry or peruse change in the world. the world is working just fine for you. And. Being angry is exhausting. He wants enjoy his new grown up world with out being exhausted. Who can blame him. But sure. He is still a petulant but brilliant and precocious child that the adults have finally allowed outside and he is over indulging himself.
posted by tkchrist at 9:58 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


BTW. Mamet is also a big Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practioner. So I cut him slack.
posted by tkchrist at 10:03 AM on March 12, 2008


/pedant on

I of course meant "one's". But I'm brain dead so please forgive me.

No, you were right the first time. "ones" is the possessive pronound, like "my"; "one's" is the contraction meaning "one is" or "one has".

/pedant off
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:14 AM on March 12, 2008


Er, pronoun
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:14 AM on March 12, 2008


I thought I used to like Mamet, but I saw a preview for his new Redbelt the other night, and I can't believe I ever took him seriously. What complete testosterone-induced nonsense. (A fight's gonna be more interesting with one guy's hand tied up? WTF? if they're reasonably matched fighters that's just making it less interesting...)
This also just comes across as bombastic and ill-thought through...
posted by mdn at 10:15 AM on March 12, 2008


Oh, and anyone who uses the word "proactive" is just proving brain-deaditude. I'm looking at you, Mamet, writer of the oh-so-excellent House of Games, Lindsay Crouse and all.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:19 AM on March 12, 2008


Sounds like someone needs to go see Dr. Goodnews.
posted by Challahtronix at 10:23 AM on March 12, 2008


A relative of mine has translated some of Mamet's work. She's somewhat to the left of Fidel Castro, so I guess she'll be delighted when I forward her this screed...
posted by Skeptic at 10:24 AM on March 12, 2008


From the article: "[T]ake away the director [=government] from the staged play and what do you get? Usually a diminution of strife, a shorter rehearsal period, and a better production."

God, this is about the most naive, KoolAid-drunk vision of American politico-social realities I have seen outside of mainstream cable news. He is criminally underinformed. Angling for a spot on Fox perhaps?
posted by O Blitiri at 10:24 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, just fucking fuck, the snark in here's like a regular old convention of bitchily self-righteous Mamet characters or something. Made a real fuckin' mess of the reading comprehension too. Me, I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion. If everyone thinks one thing, then I say bet the other way . . .

But the reading comprehension. Jesus. You don't like it, fine. Fucking quit it. Close the fucking browser, it's just one click. Pick up a fantasy novel, pick up fucking Danielle Steele. Read Marx. Use a highlighter. Not my problem, I don't fucking care. But come in here, pretend you know what the fuck - listen, the grown-ups are talking here - think you know the first fucking thing? About his point?

You - Benny Andafuck. "People are basically good"? "I'll buy that"? No. Bullshit. People aren't basically anything. People are greedy, venal, generous, hardworking, lazy. It says that twice. Look it up. People are full of shit, they love the truth so much they take it to bed, buy it breakfast the next day. Flowers. Take it dancing. Then fuck it over for some tramp looks good at the club that very fucking night.

Me, I liked it. None of that pablum about who the "enemy" is. No "if only." Just "suck it up, keep moving, get by." Fuck it. Waste of my time. You need me, I'll be down at the Chinese joint. Drinking your milkshake, some fucking thing, I don't know.
posted by gompa at 10:30 AM on March 12, 2008 [13 favorites]


David Mamet writes a commercial about cruising in the alley a Ford.
posted by ninjew at 11:02 AM on March 12, 2008


Very good essay. Nicely done, Card Cheat.
posted by tadellin at 11:09 AM on March 12, 2008


Ok. I must say I liked House of Games. And Spanish Prisoner had its moments. I have to high five AV for this, though. Because, yeah. Sometimes Mamet... you know. There's just too much. Like that. Right. What? Exactly.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:16 AM on March 12, 2008


Shorter David Mamet:

I realized that I'm a pretty old guy, and I'm kind of tired of being outraged by things. So one day I stuck my fingers in my ears and went "lalalalalala!" Happy voting season, everyone!
posted by shmegegge at 11:31 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I tried and tried to load the article in question and finally got the first page and never any futher.

I guess it's okay to make fun of older writers? I'm 44, myself. Make fun of me all you want, I'm not (currently) writing screenplays. It sort of staggers me that people are so willing to cut down to the bone when they haven't even licked the skin.

Can someone give me the synopsis of the whole thing?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:54 AM on March 12, 2008


No, you were right the first time. "ones" is the possessive pronound, like "my"; "one's" is the contraction meaning "one is" or "one has".

Huh?
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 11:54 AM on March 12, 2008


The link to this essay doesn't work for me (villagevoice.com is not responding), damnit! I want to read this...
posted by hellslinger at 12:05 PM on March 12, 2008


Huh?

Copy editing comedy, I'm pretty sure.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:26 PM on March 12, 2008


Ever since I first learned what the words "liberal" and "conservative" meant outside the context of any particular political system, I became aware of how much meaning has been unfairly attached to those two words. I think this comes from politicians publicly using these words in order to show the virtuous generosity or honorably cautious demeanor of themselves and their party. Because of this "variable" meaning, people will take the word with as much additional meaning as suits their argument, which sometimes is proportional to their outrage at the rest of the package it was sent in. By the same measure, they'll interpret others usage of it oppositely especially if it isn't exactly complimentary.

I think some might have taken offense to him using some of these words like "brain dead liberal" and how he now saw the "corporation" and "military" in different light. And these people assumed he was switching sides, although I didn't really get that he was letting anyone off the hook, he was just stepping back from condemning the whole idea of gov. or military as bad.

Sure, he might be comfortable and rich now and has the convenience of being able to see things that he once thought were evil as more of a reality, but don't you all think that seeing large complex things like government and corporations without that big "fuck you" tag, and seeing it more empirically is in the spirit of being liberal-minded? Are some of these concepts not evil, or have you thought of them as evil fucks for so long you aren't even open to the idea?

Being angry is tiring, so best conserve it and save it for when it is most necessary and applicable.
posted by hellslinger at 1:17 PM on March 12, 2008


Being angry is tiring, so best conserve it and save it for when it is most necessary and applicable.

Absolutely. And best spent on important things like secretive and malevolent governance, or the increasing power of the few.

All it takes it for good men to do nothing.....
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:38 PM on March 12, 2008


I want my fucking Cadillac.
posted by oaf at 2:07 PM on March 12, 2008


“But the reading comprehension. Jesus”

Yeah, agreed. And I can relate. No reason to get personal tho.

“Can someone give me the synopsis of the whole thing?”

Sure:
“I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.”
That and the constitution rocks.

Actually, he is self-indulgent and the piece, while well crafted, is essentially pointless. Which might be the point. People are people and it’s better to get along and some ways of getting along are superior to others. The perfect is the enemy of the good. All that. Pretty obvious.
But he’s right about the constitution and the sophistication of our methodology of “getting along.”
As lousy as it is to sit through a school board meeting or a zoning meeting, they don’t have those in many other countries.

Just heard something (on NPR I believe) about a guy introducing the concept of having coffee with political candidates in Kosovo. And it spread everywhere. I mean it’s a revelation to them that a politician would come out and talk to you and seek your input as a community group.

Many people take our conceptual tools for coming to terms - which are quite sophisticated - for granted. Apparently Mamet was one of them.
Why that forms the basis for an ideological shift (or the shallow appearance of one) or why he would cast it in such harsh termonology I don’t know. The Drama probably (this thread case in point).
posted by Smedleyman at 2:08 PM on March 12, 2008


I've seen an episode of "The Unit", and didn't realize or bother to notice who was attached to the project.

The TV show seemed like a conservative wet dream. I expected the lead actor that sells Allstate to strip down to his Stars and Stripes boxers and start masturbating while listing all of the terrible things the terrorists are trying to do to us.

I never watched it again. Maybe I caught a particularly bad episode. But it struck me as one step above propaganda.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:18 PM on March 12, 2008


Shorter David Mamet:

Things are going pretty great for me lately, so why should I bother to want to improve the world for anyone else?
posted by Caduceus at 2:19 PM on March 12, 2008


First, anyone who accedes to a "free-market" system is an idiot. He obviously doesn't know what a real free-market is. Short answer: 10 bosses and 10 million slaves. Strike one.

uh, no. Do you suppose more people live like slaves in China and Cuba, or here?

He's saying, "That's OK Mr. President, wiretap away because we know you're just a poor schlub with goodness in your heart. That's OK Mr. CongressCritter, go along with him for the same reason. That's OK, Mr. Corporation, we know the lead paint and asbestos were just mistakes..." Etc., etc., etc. Strike two.


no again. He's saying that the president's crappiness is not a function of the party to which he belongs. And that you also want the products that Mr.Corporation produces.

Third, liberals are brain-dead. For so many, many reasons - Strike three.

I think he said that he described himself as a brain-dead liberal at a time at which he still considered himself a liberal. Really, the fact that what he describes in his piece is considered by himself and his readers here as a movement away from liberalism just shows how much the terms "conservative" and "liberal" have lost most of their meaning through reactionary thinking on "both" sides.
posted by farmdoggie at 2:28 PM on March 12, 2008


He's saying that the president's crappiness is not a function of the party to which he belongs. And that you also want the products that Mr.Corporation produces.

I understand that, and I didn't say it was a function of party or liberal/conservative.

I have an issue with his pollyanna viewpoint. One of the many reasons this country is going backwards in so many ways is because people have settled. Resignation and acceptance is the easy way out. The Constitution and tripartite government only work when there are enough people with balls enough to demand that they be implemented and adhered to. And just because corporations produce the things we want and need doesn't mean they should get a free pass to shit in the living room.

Perfect can be the enemy of the good, but good is not necessarily, or automatically, good enough.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:23 PM on March 12, 2008


uh, no. Do you suppose more people live like slaves in China and Cuba, or here?

Sorry I didn't see that one. My point was that we don't have a free-market system, no matter what most people think. Our markets are, thankfully, highly regulated. That's why we have stock exchanges, and trading laws, and reporting laws, and banking laws, and usury laws, etc. In a real free market, you begin with robber barons and you end with bigger, more powerful robber barons. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer even faster than they do now.

A free-market system, like absolute logic without emotional brakes, seems like a great idea on the surface, but ultimately leads to a sinister future.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:33 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


If anyone else had written this without already being famous, it would be utterly worthless and obviously shallow.
posted by Brian B. at 4:01 PM on March 12, 2008


Benny Andajetz -

I disagree that our markets are highly regulated, but I agree that the laws you refer to are good, etc. On the other hand, if your point really was that truly free markets are a bad thing -- robber barons, slave-like conditions, etc. -- how does that apply to Mamet's essay? I see his use of "free markets" as more or less describing the kind of economy we have here. I don't see where he's advocating for removal of the kind of laws you describe.

Plus, as a matter of semantics, the markets of the gilded era, or whatever, are certainly not better described as "free" than the markets that exist today. The sorts of regulations you suggest actually help insure that the markets are free - from, for example, robber barons and monopolists.

Anyway, (let's say) generally free markets are a form of liberalism
posted by farmdoggie at 5:02 PM on March 12, 2008


My point was that we don't have a free-market system, no matter what most people think. Our markets are, thankfully, highly regulated.

This is getting semantic, but I think most economists would allow for a good degree of regulation in what is called a "free market". You have to enforce contracts, prevent collusion, prosecute fraud, etc. in order for the market to behave freely. The "free" part refers not to the degree of regulation but to whether or not prices are set by supply and demand.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:39 PM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


OK, although I knew the name, knew he was a movie guy, and had some guesses as to what movies he had done, I had to look him up on IMDB. Based on that, I now give you Flunkie's Brief Overview of David Mamet:

About Last Night: Tiresome schlock about tiresome people. Demi Moore's breasts are nice, though.

The Untouchables: Yeah, that was pretty good. Fun movie.

Glengarry Glen Ross: Some great lines. Overall good. Not as unbelievably incredibly totally fantastic as people make it out to be.

The Spanish Prisoner: Good lord, this was awful. It was like everyone was bashing both the viewer and the main character over the head with blatantly obvious clues, nonstop, which the main character was somehow miraculously completely oblivious to, and we were supposed to somehow pretend that the ending was some sort of brilliant and completely unexpected plot twist. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh, I say. Horrible.

Haven't seen any other films of his.

Overall Grade for David Mamet: B-

Would have been C+ if not for Demi Moore's breasts.
posted by Flunkie at 5:44 PM on March 12, 2008


farmdoggie and mr_roboto:

I agree with both of you (although regulations have costs which preclude pricing being set solely by supply and demand). Also, our regulations are a direct result of the abuses from an earlier, freer market.

I just was trying to point out that very few people who rally behind "free-market" solutions actually know what a free market is. It is simply a dogmatic buzzword for many armchair conservatives.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:15 PM on March 12, 2008


Arthur Silber said it best i think, quoting Mamet twice:
" I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism. -- David Mamet, "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'"

Fuck you, you fuckin' asshole. -- David Mamet, numerous works
http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/
posted by dougiedd at 6:31 PM on March 12, 2008


Benny Andajetz

Agreed. But in the context of the current discussion, i think it a bit hasty and unfair to put Mamet in the camp of the dogmatic armchair conservatives. Look, the essay isn't brilliant or anything, but I find more value in taking it as an honest account of the man's own experience as a self described liberal who is questioning his own long held beliefs and considering other possibilities. And I also consider that sort of open and honest inquiry to be the essence of liberalism, which many respondants, like the one above me, with his "fuck yous", seem not to respect. I don't even think Mamet is necessarily disavowing liberalism, or saying that liberals are "brain-dead". Some of us liberals take the name as a demand to keep thinking, and others wear it off the rack, and offer up their fuck yous to the ones whose conclusions, however briefly held, may seem offensive. Let's be honest: The brain-dead walk among us. I mean, as soon as I saw the headline of the post, I knew exactly what to expect. And sadly, it's mostly reactionary and illiberal.

Good chatting with you though ...
posted by farmdoggie at 8:32 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


*Strikes three*. Now what?
posted by ~ at 5:29 AM on March 13, 2008


So this guy boils down politics to a choice between braindead utopianism and heartless technocracy. I've heard it before, but not with so much pretentious twaddle.
posted by PM at 4:39 PM on March 13, 2008


Fuck Mamet. If things are so wonderful, perhaps he'd like to explain the ever widening gap between rich and poor in the USA? Or the rise in income volatility? Perhaps he'd like to explain to me how the financialization and hollowing out of the US economy aren't being driven by the repeal of Glass-Steagall? Perhaps he'd like to explain why the US dollar is falling like a rock?

The problem with the stupid boomers of Mamet's age, is that they never learned to work empirically. That's why they were stupid , and that's why they lost to the NeoCons and the thinktankers.

Idiot.
posted by wuwei at 5:07 PM on March 13, 2008


A choice between braindead utopianism and heartless technocracy.

Wait, isn't that Clintonc campaign message?
posted by Artw at 7:47 PM on March 13, 2008


Flunkie, Mamet didn't write "About Last Night," even though his name is on the credits. He wrote a play called "Sexual Perversity in Chicago. "About Last Night" was an extremely loose adaptation. My memory is that it uses about one page from Mamet's play.

Mamet has written some of the best plays of the late 20th Century. If you're not into plays and only know him from his films, I'm not surprised you give him a B-. I'd give him at least a B+ as a screenwriter, but that's because I've also seen "The Verdict," "The Edge," "Heist," and "House of Games."

I don't think he's a skilled film director.

But his great gift is playwriting. "American Buffalo" is one of the greatest plays of the last 100 years. Also brilliant: "Glengarry Glen Ross" (the play), "A Life In The Theatre," "Uncle Vanya" (adaptation), "Cherry Orchard" (adaptation), "Three Sisters" (adaptation), "Goldberg Street" (anthology of short plays), "Boston Marriage" and "Speed the Plow."

Some of the above plays have been adapted into films. I don't recommend many of the movie versions. But the plays are great reads. And they are great to see, if well performed.
posted by grumblebee at 11:38 AM on March 14, 2008


“Mamet has written some of the best plays of the late 20th Century.”

Yes, but those plays magically become terrible if he says something bad about your favorite ‘ism’
posted by Smedleyman at 12:42 PM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


House of Games, Homicide & Spartan -- a few great movies. Oh well, another rich old guy votes with his wallet.
posted by chiefbluefeather at 4:23 PM on March 16, 2008


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